Whether you’re an avid baker who buys flour in bulk or someone who hardly knows how to use their oven, food safety and storage are essential for your well-being. Storing flour correctly is crucial in ensuring your flour stays fresh for as long as possible. So, how do you store flour long-term?
There are three main methods for storing flour long-term. You can place the flour in an airtight container to prevent any oxygen or moisture from spoiling it, store flour in the fridge or freezer to keep it fresh for longer or use vacuum-sealed bags to prevent spoilage.
Various types of flour will all have different shelf lives. However, there are some things you can do to ensure your flour stays fresh – even beyond its expiry date! With just a couple of simple measures, you can prevent compromising the quality of your flour.
What Is The Shelf Life For Different Types Of Flour?
Using fresh ingredients for baking and cooking is vital for ensuring your end product looks and tastes fantastic.
Different kinds of flour will have separate shelf lives. Whole grain flour will have a shorter shelf life than white flour because it is refined and processed. This is because whole grain flour (or whole-wheat flour) does not go through the same processing methods as white flour.
With whole grain flour, the germ, bran, and endosperm are all left on the grain, which means your flour is more likely to spoil because of the high amount of oil that the germ and bran contain.
In more recent years, we have all seen an increase in the popularity of gluten-free products. Any gluten-free alternatives such as coconut or almond flour are prone to spoiling sooner than white refined flour because they contain more oils.
Below you can see the different types of flours with their typical room temperature shelf lives:
|Flour Type||Shelf Life At Room Temperature|
|All-Purpose Flour||6-9 Months|
|Whole-Wheat Flour||3-6 Months|
|Bread Flour||4-9 Months|
|Cake Flour||6-9 Months|
|Oat Flour||1-3 Months|
|Rye Flour||3-6 Months|
|Barley Flour||2-3 Months|
|Self-rising Flour||4-6 Months|
|Gluten Free Flours||2-5 Months|
As you can see, the highly refined white flours such as all-purpose flours and cake flours have an extended shelf life due to the processing methods. In contrast, whole-wheat flours and gluten-free alternatives have a shorter shelf life because they have a higher oil content.
Best Ways For Storing Flour Long-Term
While every type of flour is prone to spoilage within a few months of purchasing, there are a couple of tips and tricks that you can use to ensure your flour lasts a few more months, or even years, after the expiry date.
Storing Flour In Airtight Containers
To ensure your flour stays as fresh as possible for as long as possible, you will have to store it in an airtight container. Many people make the mistake of buying a large bag of flour, opening it, and then leaving it in their kitchen cupboard or pantry in the original packaging – this is a surefire way for your flour to expire sooner than you’d like.
Removing your flour from its original packaging and storing it in an airtight container can extend the shelf life of your flour by a few months, as oxygen and moisture that come into contact with your flour will increase the risk of it spoiling sooner.
A common problem many people encounter when storing flour long-term in airtight containers is insects. While you may think your flour is protected in its container from any bugs, unfortunately, the flour you buy from the store may already contain insect eggs that take weeks or months to hatch.
To prevent an infestation of bugs in your flour while storing it in airtight containers, you can freeze the flour for four days before storing it or microwave the flour before transferring it into a container. This method will kill any of the eggs present in the flour, and you can avoid an unpleasant infestation.
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Storing Flour In Your Fridge/Freezer
Another great way to store your flour long-term is by keeping it in your fridge or freezer. While keeping your flour in your fridge may add a few months to your flour’s shelf life, freezing it will ensure it stays as fresh as possible for two years or more.
However, moisture is your number one enemy for keeping your flour as fresh as possible, so you must seal the flour in an airtight container before placing it in your fridge or freezer for storage.
To prevent moist flour when thawing it before use, keep the frozen flour in its container while leaving it at room temperature. All the condensation from the frozen flour will collect outside your container instead of inside the flour.
Storing Flour With Vacuum Sealing
Vacuum sealing is another excellent way to store your flour long-term and ensure it remains as fresh as possible. The vacuum sealing process will remove any extra air around the flour in your packaging, adding another year or two to your flour’s shelf life. Follow the steps below for how to store your flour using vacuum sealing:
- Place the flour in its original packaging into a vacuum sealer bag – You need to ensure that the flour is sealed in its original packaging to ensure that no particles of flour will get sucked into your vacuum sealing machine.
- Follow the instructions that come with your vacuum sealing machine – Many people use google or YouTube when they are unsure how a machine works. However, not every product will be the same.
- Store the bag of sealed flour in your freezer – To kill any insects and eggs that may be present in your flour, you will need to freeze the bag for four days.
How To Check For Expired Flour
Even if your flour has surpassed the expiry date on the packaging, it may still be OK to use, especially if you have stored it correctly or frozen it. Usually, expired flour will have a distinct smell, or you may notice some discoloration, but different types of flour will have particular signs.
Expired Refined Flour
Refined white flours such as self-rising and all-purpose flours tend to last longer than other types of flour. However, if you have not stored your flour correctly or it has been over two years since your purchase, your flour may have expired.
To check whether refined white flour has expired, you will usually notice that your flour gives off a sour smell. There may also be some discoloration. It would be best if you removed any flour that looks or smells bad, as it can compromise the quality of your food.
Expired Whole-Grain Flour
As whole wheat flours tend to spoil sooner than refined flours, you may have to check your whole-grain flour due to their oil content regularly. Whole grain flours will have similar signs of expiration to white refined flour. So, you will need to check for an off-putting smell or discoloration to see whether your flour has gone off.
Alternative Flours (Nut Or Seed)
It is generally a bit harder to check alternative flours for signs of expiration. If you have kept any nut or seed flours for over a year, it may be time to throw them out. Another way to check for expiration is if you are experiencing a bitter or burnt taste while cooking.
Long Term Flour Storage
While most flours have a shelf life of 3-9 months, there are a few things you can do to increase the shelf life of your flour. Many people use airtight containers, vacuum-sealed bags, or store their flour in the fridge or freezer for a few additional months, or even years, of freshness.